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Anja Petterson: Flying around the trails, often in sandals

By on October 28, 2019 in Outdoor Fun with 0 Comments
Anja Petterson runs the neighborhood with her German Shorthaired Pointer — her dog pal running companion.

By Sarah Shaffer

While mountain biking a couple of different times in the mountains surrounding Wenatchee, I came across this woman named Anja Petterson. 

She wore sandals while trail running, and while I was huffing and puffing on the uphill mountain bike grind, she went strolling by effortlessly while running. Not even breaking a sweat on a hot day. 

She was talking away pleasantly while I felt like I may die on the uphill. She left me in the dust and did so gracefully and kindly. 

This made me want to know, who is this awesome lady runner? So I asked her for an interview. 

Little did I know she used to be a competitive dog musher, has broken the women’s record for the Enchantments trail and enjoys a beer on a nightly basis. 

Question: Anja, I heard you moved to Wenatchee about a year ago from Spokane. What brought you to our area?

Answer: My husband and I were looking to relocate to somewhere smaller with more outdoor adventure opportunities, and when he had a job offer to come to Wenatchee, we were like LET’S GO. 

My husband grew up in Leavenworth and as a kid, I’ve always loved central Washington. So it was the move we wanted and haven’t looked back — we love it here.

Question: What do you do for work, do you have kids or dogs? Tell us a bit about yourself.

Answer: My husband and I have been married for a couple of years… and hopefully kids are on the horizon soon. 

Currently we have our two fur babies, a little black kitten and a big goofy German Shorthaired Pointer who keeps me company on most of my runs. 

I work as a massage therapist for the WRAC, where I specialize in deep tissue and sports treatments. I’m also certified in running biomechanics and do personal sessions as well at the WRAC. 

On the side, I take clients for running coaching purposes. 

One more thing, I’m also a freelance artist and I work for my dad’s company where we paint murals on water tanks across the nation (random, right?). We stay pretty busy. 

Nonetheless, I’m still type B (personality wise). I LOVE relaxing, doing my art, binging on Netflix or eating out with my hubby, as well as getting together with some amazing lady speedsters who I train with.

Question: What do you love about utlra-running and how did you get started with it? 

Answer: I got into running about 12 years ago, before then I was a competitive musher. Got into ultra running within the last six, and have gotten more serious within the last handful.

I’m still very much a road-runner at heart and love competing in track and road events. I really enjoy mixing it up, and I find that it keeps me fresh. 

What got me more on the trails was just combining my love of running with the connection to nature… and when I discovered that it was an actual sport, I was sold.

Question: Where did you grow up if you used to do competitive dog mushing?

Answer: I grew up in the foothills of the east side of the Spokane area within 10 minutes of the Idaho border and was part of the Inland Northwest Dogsled Association. There are quite a few races in the Northwest alone, and not just limited to Canada/Alaska.

Question: We have seen you on the trails wearing sandals while running. Wow. What are these and where do you purchase them?

Answer: Ha-ha YES. I was hoping for this question. I’ve always been into minimalist footwear, then when I read Born To Run about 10 years ago, I had to get my hands on a pair. They’re called Luna Sandals and are based out of Seattle. 

The sandals definitely make running more of an experience, you have greater ground feel, and with the lack of support you have to be more mindful. 

In turn, and in my own experience, I believe it makes you more efficient and a bit more connected to your own body and its surroundings. 

Question: What kind of diet/nutrition do you keep while training? Do you have an off-season diet or regiment?

Answer: I understand that calories don’t always equal calories, so I try to stick to high-quality, high-nutrient dense foods. 

I was a vegan/vegetarian for most of my life, which didn’t work for my body. I developed illnesses from the deficiencies and malnutrition, so my last handful of years of running have been incredibly difficult and painful. 

I added in local pasture-raised meat (officially one year ago) into my diet, and my body is thriving more then it ever has. 

That being said, I’ve adapted more to a higher fat, lower carb diet. Not all bodies are alike, but this route seems to give me endless energy (and make me a lot less achy). 

Nonetheless, I still enjoy beer almost daily (carb of choice) and the occasional treats. 

Off season is pretty much the same, but with more beer (husband may or may not have brought me beer to enjoy at aid stations mid races).

Question: What does your weekly training consist of? 

Answer: It really varies, but I do tend to thrive on higher mileage when my schedule allows. Ideally 80-100 mile weeks in training (about six days a week). 

I probably average 30-50 miles a week in the off-season. This even goes for any distance, including the shorter 5k. 

The only thing that changes depending on the goal are the workouts/speed sessions or elevation gain. If I’m training for a sky race (which is a trail race, not limited to ultra distances, but involves extreme gain and higher in altitude), I’m more likely to count elevation and time versus mileage. 

It’s best to listen to your body, I may be able to do 100 mile weeks for the most part, but when I start throwing in thousands of feet of vertical a week, it can be challenging. So you adapt and figure out what’s best for your training. 

I skate ski and snowboard in the wintertime, swim in the river in the summer, as well as mountain bike with my dog. 

Anja Petterson flies down trails, too.

Question: What has been the most memorable thing you have seen or experienced while running in the mountains?

Answer: I feel like my experiences have truly shifted since moving here. 

The mountains here in the Cascades are glorious, magnificent, and absolutely terrifying. 

Hard to pick and choose a top memory… but doing the Enchantments route for the first time last fall was incredible. The larch trees were in their golden prime, as well as there was little to no one out there, so I got to experience the trail solo and quiet, which made it very meditative. 

My second time through was more of a hustle. I recorded it and was able to break the women’s course record.

Question: Do you run without ear-buds? If so, how do you stay motivated for the grinding uphills?

Answer: You know, it truly depends on my mood. I’m not anti-headphones, as music just adds to the experience for me. It’s almost like listening to a soundtrack to an epic movie. 

But most of the time, I stay unplugged for safety reasons. I’ve had enough cougar encounters to motivate me to stay aware of my surroundings. 

Fortunately, I really don’t need music to push me, as my brain tends to go into a meditative state where I’m really not thinking a whole lot, plus I usually have my dog with me, which is very entertaining.

Question: How do you “stay safe” on your longer runs? Do you run with someone else, do you tell someone where you are running? What if any, precautions do you take to keep yourself in contact or so that you feel comfortable while running in the woods?

Answer: I occasionally run with others (more for the camaraderie), especially with some of my awesome friends here.

 I stay safe by letting my husband know my whereabouts and when to expect my return. 

Here in Wenatchee, I’m more concerned about wildlife vs. two-legged predators, and most of the time, you know what to expect with wildlife. 

Knowing that you’re in their space, respect them by acknowledging that they’re there and that you’re there. Keeping your distance usually makes life good for everyone.

Living is Spokane was tough with the high crime problem, that being said, I think everyone needs to take precautions whatever the gender, and know the risks. 

Pay attention to your surroundings, unplug from your headset, carry something for self-defense (I love Go Guarded running knife rings) and (it’s) also nice having a dog pal to run with.

 Question: What are your current ultra-running goals or what other physical activity outdoor goals do you have?

Answer: I’d love to do more in the Sky Race category and travel to Europe to compete. I also aspire to qualify for the Olympic Trials for the marathon one day and try to break 17 min in the 5k again. 

There is also an intrigue with Badwater 135 in Death Valley, and kind of have that in my five-year plan.

 Question: What is your favorite run to do around the Wenatchee foothills/mountain areas?

Answer: Some days I want the alpine, some days I want the hot arid desert. Some days I want a fast fluid trail run on Sage Hills or Squilchuck (sorry mountain bikers). 

Other days I want a long lung burner on the fire roads beyond Mission Ridge, and then there are days I want a long painful grind up Badger Mountain Road or mile repeats on the Apple Loop. 

Wenatchee has so much to offer, and there’s no way I’ll ever get bored with the variety.

To ask Anja questions on Luna Sandals, or to talk about coaching, visit Instagram @RollickingRunner or email her at rollickingrunner@gmail.com. 

The full version of this story appears on Wenatcheeoutdoors.org — the site covers such topics as hiking, biking, climbing, paddling, trail running and skiing in the region.

Sarah Shaffer is the Executive Director of WenatcheeOutdoors.

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